Working title- Jen’s Story: Chapter 6

I followed the instructions on the note, and I didn’t view the contents of the SD card until I was completely alone, an event which happened several weeks later. During that time, however, I didn’t just sit around.

The rookie arrived the very next day, and I discovered that she was assigned to take Sarah’s bed in our hall. I helped her move in, though I really just wanted to protest her presence.

She was a tiny little thing, and blonder than almost anyone else that I’d seen. Privately I wondered how she had gotten into the MRA in the first place, but I didn’t ask. She might have been Sarah’s replacement, but that didn’t mean she was going to replace Sarah as my friend.

Her name was Autumn, and she was way too loud, in my opinion. And that was just the first impression. When I took her to training with the team for the first time I saw exactly how viscous she was.

Because of her, it felt like I was never alone. Autumn showed up everywhere, and there was no way I could get rid of her. She picked up on my dislike and tried to ask me about it.

“I can understand why you might not like me,” she began the conversation. I had been filling out some paperwork and I paused, startled and confused by this. We had been sitting in silence for about a half hour, and I had almost forgotten that she was there. Which was how I liked it.

“Oh?” I asked, setting down my pen but refusing to look at her. I could feel her stare, burning the back of my neck, and I fought the urge to squirm.

“I’m new,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I couldn’t stand showing someone like me around, if I was you.”

“There’s a lot more to it than that,” I said sharply.

“Obviously,” she said. “You also lost one of your team-mates. Squad members. You wish that I was her.”

She said this so bluntly that I all could do was stare. She had pegged a large portion of why I didn’t like her, but not all of it. My fingers itched to pull out the SD card, to find out what was on it. And I couldn’t do that if she was there.

“That’s part of it,” I conceded. “You’re a rookie. You haven’t lost you best friend to a mutey. You live, work and train with these people. You trust them with your life.” With each word I had become far more emotional. Autumn shifted uncomfortably, and I stared at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice.

“No, you’re not,” I said coldly. “You don’t know yet what it’s like to lose your best friend.” I turned away, not wanting to talk anymore.

A couple of minutes later she left the room. After the door closed behind her I rested my head in my hands, giving in to the weakness I felt inside.

I just wanted to cry, again, but I knew that it wouldn’t do me any good. Besides, my eyes were beginning to burn from the constant tears.

I wonder how much time I have before she comes back, I thought by way of distracting myself from my misery, sliding a hand into my pocket, my fingers curling around the micro SD card. I slid it out and looked at it.

Suddenly I felt like precious time was slipping away. I pulled my laptop into the center of my desk and turned it on while I rummaged around for my adapter for the card.

With trembling fingers I inserted the card into my laptop. The seconds stretched out, each one feeling like an eternity as my laptop slowly read the card.

Twenty-five folders met my expectant stare. Each one had a series of numbers as its name, Dates, from the look of it.

I selected the first folder, which was dated two years ago. Inside it were three documents, each titled with a name.

“Alex,” “Jack,” and “Jen.” Adrenaline and confusion rushed through my body, and I opened my document. I was terrified I’d get caught, and yet eager to know at the exact same time.

Dear Jen, the document read. If you’re reading this, it means that something happened to me. It also means that I can’t explain to you in person what’s going on here.

The MRA is more than just a tagging and registration program, like they told us when we were recruited. They’ve been working on a way to “cure” the mutants. In other words, to neutralize the powers.

I know what you’re thinking, but let me tell you, it’s not as great as it sounds. The MRA has a team of scientists that specifically work with cloning and genetics. They also have unlimited lab rats. 

Some of the muteys (take that, spell-check!) we bring in have no records of family or a permanent address. Sometimes they refuse to tell us their names, and they’re entered into the system as “John” or “Jane Doe.”

Who cares if these unknowns go missing for the sake of science? But even with the people who have families, sometimes the family gives the MRA permission to experiment on the mutey.

I don’t know exactly what happens in those labs, but I do know one thing- when the mutants come out, they’re either powerless (and test clean of the drugs, too) or dead. I saw them removing the bodies while I was on watch one evening, and I went to Iron Silk about it.

He told me that he’d look into it, but he hasn’t gotten back to me and he’s been treating me differently since then. I think I might be in trouble here, Jen, BIG TROUBLE.

Anyhow, I’m sure you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the rest of the SD card. They’re profiles organized by the date we collected the mutey on.

When you open the larger folders, that’s by month and year. I went back two years and copied every John or Jane Doe, every mutey whose family turned in a form saying they could be used in experiments, and every mutey we’ve lost, or who’s gone missing.

I don’t know exactly what they’re doing to them, but this is not what I signed up for. Look into it for me. Promise me, Jen?

Lots of love,

Sarah

I stared at the screen for a moment, tears welling. On one level, this explained so much. On another, it opened a whole new world of questions.

I knew in that moment that I had been thrown into a whole new world of problems, and I didn’t like it. If what Sarah had told me was true, then I didn’t want any part in it. If what Sarah had told me was true, that explained why she had been killed.

Even if it wasn’t true, Sarah had died believing it, and I wasn’t going to just ignore her last request. The letters on the screen blurred as I stared at it. I knew in my heart what my response was.

“I promise,” I whispered.

“Promise who what?”

Working Title- Jen’s Story: Chapter Four

The rest of breakfast was rather awkward, but otherwise it wasn’t noteworthy. I took Alex back to his mother’s home when we’d finished, and then began my drive back to the MRA base.

Once I was alone, my mind began working overtime to process everything that I’d been trying to ignore for the last several days. Things just weren’t adding up. Why hadn’t the mutey, if Sarah really was killed by a mutant, used their power to do her in? Why was she shot?

Where had the gun come from? If there was a registered firearm at the address we were going to, it would have been mentioned in the briefing. However, our commander mentioned no such gun to us, which meant that either the gun was an illegal one, of that it was one of ours.

“I’ll ask the commander about that,” I murmured, exiting the highway and making my way down the small road that led to the base. It was a lonely winding road, and I had often enjoyed the solitude as I drove on it.

It’s so nice to be alone sometimes, I thought, relaxing slightly and slowing to match the new speed limit. Suddenly something occurred to me, and I swerved to the side of the road violently.

Sarah was alone when I found her, I thought. She was alone, and I didn’t see anyone else on my way in. That’s not standard protocol. She should have been guarded by at least one person, even if the squad had split up.

                With trembling hands I yanked my notebook out of my purse, and flipped through it. A loose sheet of paper fluttered out, and I fumbled with it as I caught it.

In Sarah’s messy scrawl were four solitary words. As I read them, I felt as though all of the blood had drained out of my body.

“Don’t trust Iron Silk.”

When we’d been assigned to our squadron, Sarah had taken it upon herself to nickname everyone, so she could talk about them without them knowing. I’d laughed at her, but then I’d learned the nicknames anyhow.

Iron Silk was her nickname for the commander. Sarah had explained her reasoning to me- “He’s from the South, and he’s been raised to be a gentleman,” she’d said. “Southern gentlemen are bred to be an iron fist in a silk glove.”

Why shouldn’t I trust him? I wondered, flipping to the page I had doodled on during the funeral. It occurred to me that Sarah liked to leave notes in sneaky ways, and I traded my pen in for a pencil.

Carefully I shaded the page, looking for anything. The indents from Sarah’s note appeared, and then at the bottom of the page was a single word.

“Traitor”

I set the pad of paper aside and sat in my car, thinking. Did Sarah mean that our commander was a traitor? Was she referring to herself? Or maybe to me? But that made no sense.

What should I do? I wondered, resting my head against the headrest. Sarah told me not to trust the commander, and I can’t go any further above him without him finding out.

                I studied the road ahead of me, feeling trapped and confused. The notes Sarah had left made no sense and I felt like the entire thing was beyond my comprehension, let alone control.

I need a plan, I thought, determined to change my current status of helplessness. What do I need to do? Find out who, and why, Sarah told me not to trust, and who she called a traitor. How can I do that?

My frustration was growing the longer I sat there. It was like I’d hit a dead end.

I won’t get any answers by sitting here, I thought, turning the car on. I’ll ask the commander about the gun thing. See how he reacts. Do a little digging. Play it by ear.

Quickly I pulled back onto the road and made my way back to base. A churning in my stomach that had nothing to do with my drinking the previous night had started, and I almost wanted to throw up again.

Don’t waste those pancakes, I thought determinedly. They tasted pretty good going down, and I can guarantee they won’t be anywhere near as good coming back up. Besides, they didn’t cost you anything. You can’t just waste a free breakfast.

I parked my car, and turned my keys in at the office, signing myself back onto the premises. The lady at the desk looked up at me oddly- with a mix between boredom, sympathy and curiosity written on her face.

“You went to the funeral, didn’t you?” she asked, staring at me, scrutinizing my face for any betrayal of emotion.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You going to be okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said again, forcing a grin this time. It felt odd on my face, like a leer, and I let it fade away.

“Good to hear it, sweetie,” she said, looking away. “I have a note here, telling you to report to Commanding Officer Murphy’s office ASAP.” I grimaced, and a slightly dry smile crossed her face.

“You sure you’re going to be okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “What’s the worst that can happen to me?”

“You don’t want me to answer that,” she said, turning away from me, her swivel chair squeaking under her.

“No, I don’t suppose I do,” I said with a sigh as I left the office. And you don’t even know the half of it, I added silently.